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Letting Go with a Paintbrush

My Buddha Board experience

Buddha board - white screen with paintbrush.
My Buddha Board - not yet used. Photo by author.

At Christmas time a package arrived from America, sent by our son and his wife. It contained gifts to be shared with the rest of the family. Most of the contents were edible, devoured within days. One thing that wasn’t edible was a box containing a Buddha Board.

I open the box and — being female — read the instruction booklet. Unlike most boring instruction booklets, it begins with a Zen quote:

The past is over The future may never be. The present is all that exists Live each moment to the fullest.

Hmm. I turn the page, hoping there are less obtuse instructions to be found. Ah, yes. Here are six points about how to use the Buddha Board, the essential point being to dip the paintbrush into the water tray and make marks on the white screen resting above it.

I fill the tray with water, wet the brush, stare at the pure white screen awaiting my marks, and freeze.

What marks shall I make to create my momentous masterpiece? I think of my two favourite artists: Marc Chagall and Russell Drysdale. I move the brush closer to the screen, thinking I’ll do a floating lady, like in Chagall’s painting The Promenade. No. That’s too hard. Instead, I’ll imitate Drysdale’s iconic Australian figures in a mystical outback landscape, like those in The Cricketers. As I move the brush even closer to the screen, I feel perspiration forming on my forehead, and my hand, still poised, starts to shake. I suspect the brush has dried out.

I put the brush down and re-read the instructions, especially points 5 and 6. Point 5 says that as the water evaporates, my painting will fade. There’s nothing permanent about it. And point 6 tells me to:

Enjoy the moment!

This reminds me that the Buddha Board isn’t about masterpieces, art galleries, fame and fortune. It’s about living in the moment. I’m overthinking the experience. Trying to force it to be something, instead of allowing it to emerge.

I dip the brush in the water again and — well — just make marks. Before they fade forever, I take a photo. I take another photo a couple of minutes later. Then I sit and watch the board until it’s pure white again.

White screen with three vertical strokes on the right like reeds, a ground level mark and a small circle above it.
My random artistic marks on the Buddha Board. Photo by author.
Marks fading on Buddha board. Only ground level mark and half a circle faintly visible.
My random artistic marks fading fast. A lesson about life. Photo by author.

I don’t cry about my fast-fading efforts. I don’t fume or fret that something I’ve done no longer exists. I don’t wish I’d done it differently, yearn for it to come back, or anguish over the pointlessness of life. I just sit and look at the now totally white screen.

I’m mastering the art of letting go.

If someone doesn’t send you a Buddha Board in the post next Christmas, I recommend you buy one.

It’s a simple and powerful reminder of the transitive nature of all things.

Yet another simple doorway into Mindfulness.

With love, Marlane

First published on


Another simple doorway to Mindfulness (and not as expensive!) is my FREE 7-Day Mindfulness Challenge.

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